Three Factors You Must Consider Before Installing Solar Panels On A Tiny Home

Environmental Articles

When you're building a tiny home, one of the most important decisions you have to make is the type of energy source you'll use to power your appliances and other items that require electricity. A solar panel system is a great option. However, there are a number of factors you must take into consideration when determining if this is the right option for you and which type of system to install. Here are three issues you need to resolve before calling a solar panel contractor.

Calculate Your Energy Usage

One of the first things you need to do is calculate how much energy you need your solar panel system to produce. Even if you plan on using a hybrid system that will draw some energy from the grid or use gas to power some appliances, taking time to calculate how much electricity you'll use within a 24 hour period of time can help you avoid wasting money buying a bigger system than you really need.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average residential home used 901 kWh of electricity per month. Since your tiny home is much, much smaller than the average American house, your energy needs will be a lot less. Still, you can determine your energy usage by determining how many watts an item draws and the estimated number of hours per day it will be in use.

For instance, a laptop uses 50 watts of energy per hour. If you plan on using it 5 hours per day, it will draw 250 watts of energy from the solar panel system. Most items have labels that tell you how much energy they consume. However, you can find estimates online or purchase a wattage measuring device to help you determine how much energy a device is using.

Once you've got a good estimate, you can determine how many solar panels you need to generate the energy required. The average solar panel produces about 200 watts of energy per hour. So if you estimate you'll use 1 kWh of energy per hour, for instance, you'll need a minimum of 5 panels to meet your needs. You need to also use your estimation to determine how large (or how many) batteries you'll need to store the energy for use overnight.

Watch the Weight

Another thing you need to factor in is how much the solar panels weigh for a couple of different reasons. First, if you plan on putting the panels on the roof of your tiny home, you need to make sure it's strong enough to hold them. Second, if you plan on making your tiny home mobile, you must ensure the overall structure is not too heavy for the trailer hitch it will sit on and/or does not exceed the weight limits imposed by state laws.

Solar panels weigh an average of 23 pounds each, but the ones you purchase may weigh more or less depending on their size and the type of material they're made from. You'll need to balance that weight with other aspects of the home to ensure you stay within whatever restrictions you're working with. In California, for instance, trailers over 10,000 pounds require special licensing. If you're trying to avoid this, you may need to remove other things from your home to accommodate the weight of the solar panels.

You Need an Inverter

The last thing you need to factor in is you'll have to install a converter. Solar panel systems typically generate DC (direct current) electricity. However, most appliances are designed to use AC (alternating current) electricity. Most people don't realize this because homes and buildings attached to the grid are designed to supply electricity in the AC format. This is not the case with solar.

To use your appliances with a solar panel system, you'll need to also install an inverter that will convert DC to AC. There are some newer systems that do produce AC because they have an inverter built into them. Be aware, though, they may cost more than you want to spend because they're so new.

For more information about choosing a solar panel system for your home, contact a company that specializes in solar panel installation.


18 April 2017

Understanding Energy Consumption

In a world filled with technology, there aren't many things more important than watching your usage--especially when costs are an issue. I started thinking carefully about my usage a few years ago when things were tight, and I realized that there was a lot that I could do to make things right. I began focusing on replacing my light bulbs with lower usage versions, turning off lights when I could, and focusing on maintaining my HVAC equipment. Within a few months, I realized that I was saving money and living a better life, and it made a big difference. Check out this blog to learn more.